Prospect Preview: Mikal Bridges

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

MIKAL BRIDGES, F, VILLANOVA
Class: Junior
Ht: 6-foot-7
Wt: 200 pounds
2017-18 Stats: 17.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.9 apg

HOW HE OPERATES

Mikal Bridges was the best shooter on the nation’s best – and record-setting – 3-point shooting basketball team. At nearly 18 points per game and 43.5 percent shooting from the arc, Bridges was a first-team All-Big East selection and a third-team All-American. He averaged 17.2 points per game during the NCAA Tournament to help lead Villanova to its second national title in the last three seasons.

He is a prolific, and smooth, scorer and his jump shot is the foundation. Bridges made them whether he was guarded (41.2 percent) or unguarded (45.3 percent). He was flat-out deadly in pull-up 3-point jumpers in transition. From the standpoint of filling the lane, getting to a spot and knocking down a 3-pointer in fast break situations, there are few, if any, prospects in the draft better than Bridges.

In the half court, he was not a big off-ball movement player. It doesn’t mean he can’t keep the pace high and run off of several screens to free himself for an open look, but it wasn’t required in Villanova’s offense, which was a great passing offense and equally good in creating open shots for all of its players from drive-and-kick. Bridges is not the most athletic player, but he can catch an alley oop or finish with a dunk on a fast break. He runs the court well and turns on the speed when he needs to.

Bridges is still developing when it comes to creating his own shot. Right now, that mostly manifests itself in moves designed to get a defender on his heels and then pull up for a jump shot. His length helps in beating defenders to the rim or getting a floater up over their outstretched arms. But he’s not regularly exploding past defenders and beating them to the hoop.

Defensively, Bridges’ feet look adequate in lateral movement. He had much more active feet at the beginning of the season, but was dealing with a bruised hip at the end of the season, which limited him. His length allows him to recover from being beaten off the dribble to still contest and/or block the shot. And because of that length, Bridges was used as the player at the top of Nova’s 1-2-2 press. That length helps him contest shots. Opponents shot just 38 percent against him in isolation; and players pulling up for jumpers off of the dribble shot a miniscule 30 percent against Bridges.

Bridges led Villanova with 61 steals and was second in blocks with 43. Those steals came in a variety of ways – deflections in passing lanes, poking the basketball away from his own man, digging down and stealing the ball from a player posting up.

HIS BEST FIT

Bridges will be at his best on a team with an established point guard, and on a team that spaces the court well and plays up-tempo. That will allow the 6-7 forward to run the court, find his spots and fire at will from the 3-point line. He profiles as an elite shooter in the NBA, but will need players to draw defenders and kick out to him to be most effective. Especially early on in his career. Simply, the more playmakers he has around him, the better. Has the potential to be a Khris Middleton-type scorer.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter

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